UK May Be Safe for an NCAA Tourney Bid, But I Wouldn’t Lose to Vandy Just the Same [VIDEO]
It’s been interesting and humorous watching these SEC Tournament games. Bridgestone Arena in Nashville is playing host to the tournament this year and to look out across the landscape of that building, you’d think Kentucky was playing in every game.
But, no, that’s just what Big Blue Nation does at conference tournament time. The fans descend upon Atlanta or New Orleans or Tampa or, in this case, Nashville with trademark apoplectic fervor, fill up the arena even for games in which they are not involved (because the football schools’ fans don’t really care enough to make the trip en masse), and prepare for a weekend of CATS-CATS-CATS! At least, that’s the plan.
Well there’s another plan at play here:
The plan the Wildcats have to beat 10th-seeded Vanderbilt a third time to advance to the SEC semifinals. I know that this year’s crop of bubble teams is among the worst we’ve ever seen. And, for those you of the “casual fan” persuasion, a bubble team is a team that’s still hovering down around the tourney-inclusion cutline. That’s a team that still has work to do to assure itself a spot in the Big Dance.
Well, the cutline is exactly where Kentucky has been hovering ever since the season-ending injury to Nerlens Noel. Many a college-basketball-analyzing talking head has said that Kentucky’s wins over Missouri and Florida–and, to a lesser extent, the road win over Ole Miss–are enough to get the ‘Cats into the NCAA Tournament. It’s all so nebulous around the bottom, this year, that that might be true.
But I also believe that losing to Vanderbilt on Friday evening would constitute a “bad” loss and a chance UK doesn’t want to take.
Arkansas–for the purposes of the power ranking–would have been a better opponent, but they can’t seem to win once they walk out their front door.
So Kentucky gets Vanderbilt in a quarter-final match-up that, I believe, is a must-win for the ‘Cats if Big Dance dreams are to stay alive.
Here’s Kentucky coach John Calipari discussing the SEC Tournament and UK’s win over Florida with ESPN senior college basketball writer Andy Katz:
NOTE: UK/Vandy quarter-final action begins at 6:30 on WBKR. Pre-game coverage starts at 5PM on WOMI.